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Microsoft Releases Window MultiPoint Server 2012 Beta

Microsoft last week announced that a beta of Windows MultiPoint Server 2012 is now available.

The server, designed mostly as an IT solution for budget-strapped organizations and schools, can be downloaded for testing via the Microsoft Connect portal here. Microsoft made a few improvements with the beta, including adding support for Windows 8 clients on top of Windows 7 client support. The new MultiPoint Server 2012 beta is "built on an updated version of the Windows Server operating system," according to Microsoft's evaluation guide, although the updated OS is not named. The currently available MultiPoint Server 2011 product is based on Windows Server 2008 R2.

Essentially, MultiPoint Server is a single physical server that is controlled by a teacher or someone typically lacking IT expertise. The server supports desktop sessions on multiple terminals, which may be "dumb" ones, consisting only of monitor, keyboard and mouse. It's designed to cut the traditional costs associated with having to buy and maintain multiple PCs in classroom-like settings. Server management is simplified in the product to address the needs of organizations lacking traditional IT support and expertise.

One new addition to the MultiPoint Server 2012 beta is a new dashboard. Microsoft separated the system administration tasks from classroom tasks with the new beta. A recovery feature has been added that can return the system to its last-known good state. Microsoft also added the ability of an administrator to create Windows 7 or Windows 8 virtual machines if they are running the Premium version of the server. This latter option can be used to sidestep application or device incompatibilities, according to a Microsoft blog post describing the new beta.

Microsoft designed MultiPoint Server as "a market expansion product," according to Clark Nicholson, a Microsoft principal program manager, in a June Microsoft TechEd North America presentation. It's designed for organizations with limited PC and maintenance budgets, limited IT training and high energy costs. In some countries, energy costs are five or six times those in the United States, he explained. He pointed to a Forrester Research total economic impact study that found a 66 percent reduction in costs using MultiPoint Server 2011 vs. a traditional classroom setup.

Nicholson said that MultiPoint Server leverages Terminal Services (now called "Remote Desktop Services"), but Microsoft cut some of those costs by adding a "local station" implementation, in which any monitor can serve as a client. MultiPoint Server supports various LAN client hardware, but a new client hardware ecosystem has developed around the server product. For instance, dumb terminals can be supported via new multiport graphics cards, USB zero clients (which extend a monitor via a USB cable), USB/LAN zero clients and "network monitors" specifically designed to work with the server, he explained.

No details were provided about when the MultiPoint Server 2012 product will appear. Costs weren't provided, but Microsoft has previously described the licensing for the 2011 product. MultiPoint Server requires Client Access Licenses on every terminal and application licensing is an extra cost.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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